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1.  BrainCheck – a very brief tool to detect incipient cognitive decline: optimized case-finding combining patient- and informant-based data 
Optimal identification of subtle cognitive impairment in the primary care setting requires a very brief tool combining (a) patients’ subjective impairments, (b) cognitive testing, and (c) information from informants. The present study developed a new, very quick and easily administered case-finding tool combining these assessments (‘BrainCheck’) and tested the feasibility and validity of this instrument in two independent studies.
We developed a case-finding tool comprised of patient-directed (a) questions about memory and depression and (b) clock drawing, and (c) the informant-directed 7-item version of the Informant Questionnaire on Cognitive Decline in the Elderly (IQCODE). Feasibility study: 52 general practitioners rated the feasibility and acceptance of the patient-directed tool. Validation study: An independent group of 288 Memory Clinic patients (mean ± SD age = 76.6 ± 7.9, education = 12.0 ± 2.6; 53.8% female) with diagnoses of mild cognitive impairment (n = 80), probable Alzheimer's disease (n = 185), or major depression (n = 23) and 126 demographically matched, cognitively healthy volunteer participants (age = 75.2 ± 8.8, education = 12.5 ± 2.7; 40% female) partook. All patient and healthy control participants were administered the patient-directed tool, and informants of 113 patient and 70 healthy control participants completed the very short IQCODE.
Feasibility study: General practitioners rated the patient-directed tool as highly feasible and acceptable. Validation study: A Classification and Regression Tree analysis generated an algorithm to categorize patient-directed data which resulted in a correct classification rate (CCR) of 81.2% (sensitivity = 83.0%, specificity = 79.4%). Critically, the CCR of the combined patient- and informant-directed instruments (BrainCheck) reached nearly 90% (that is 89.4%; sensitivity = 97.4%, specificity = 81.6%).
A new and very brief instrument for general practitioners, ‘BrainCheck’, combined three sources of information deemed critical for effective case-finding (that is, patients’ subject impairments, cognitive testing, informant information) and resulted in a nearly 90% CCR. Thus, it provides a very efficient and valid tool to aid general practitioners in deciding whether patients with suspected cognitive impairments should be further evaluated or not (‘watchful waiting’).
PMCID: PMC4241397  PMID: 25422675
2.  For debate: substituting placebo controls in long-term Alzheimer's prevention trials 
Novel compounds with potential to attenuate or stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease (AD) from its presymptomatic stage to dementia are being tested in man. The study design commonly used is the long-term randomized, placebo-controlled trial (RPCT), meaning that many patients will receive placebo for 18 months or longer. It is ethically problematic to expose presymptomatic AD patients, who by definition are at risk of developing dementia, to prolonged placebo treatment. As an alternative to long-term RPCTs we propose a novel clinical study design, termed the placebo group simulation approach (PGSA), using mathematical models to forecast outcomes of presymptomatic AD patients from their own baseline data. Forecasted outcomes are compared with outcomes observed on candidate drugs, thus replacing a concomitant placebo group.
First models were constructed using mild cognitive impairment (MCI) data from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) database. One outcome is the Alzheimer Disease Assessment Scale - cognitive subscale (ADAScog) score after 24 months, predicted in a linear regression model; the other is the trajectory over 36 months of a composite neuropsychological test score (Neuro-Psychological Battery (NP-Batt)), using a mixed model. Demographics and clinical, biological and neuropsychological baseline values were tested as potential predictors in both models.
ADAScog scores after 24 months are predicted from gender, obesity, Functional Assessment Questionnaire (FAQ) and baseline scores of Mini-Mental State Examination, ADAScog and NP-Batt with an R2 of 0.63 and a residual standard deviation of 0.67, allowing reasonably precise estimates of sample means. The model of the NP-Batt trajectory has random intercepts and slopes and fixed effects for body mass index, time, apolipoprotein E4, age, FAQ, baseline scores of ADAScog and NP-Batt, and four interaction terms. Estimates of the residual standard deviation range from 0.3 to 0.5 on a standard normal scale. If novel drug candidates are expected to diminish the negative slope of scores with time, a change of 0.04 per year could be detected in samples of 400 with a power of about 80%.
First PGSA models derived from ADNI MCI data allow prediction of cognitive endpoints and trajectories that correspond well with real observed values. Corroboration of these models with data from other observational studies is ongoing. It is suggested that the PGSA may complement RPCT designs in forthcoming long-term drug studies with presymptomatic AD individuals.
PMCID: PMC3226271  PMID: 21418632

Results 1-2 (2)